Go To Top
See How Much You Can Save
See How Much You Can Save
Please enter valid zip
HEALTH Insurance

Health insurance can be pricey, but you may still find affordable health insurance that works for you. 

Affordable Health Insurance

Health insurance can be pricey, but you may still find affordable health insurance that works for you. 

If you’re covered through an employer, you likely have only one or two health insurance choices. If your spouse is also eligible through an employer, that may add one or two more options. 

You have more choices if you shop for a health plan outside of employer-sponsored plans, such as individual health insurance. However, that also can mean higher costs since you won’t have an employer helping pay for health insurance. 

Let’s take a look at how to shop for cheap health insurance. 

Affordable health insurance in employer plans

Most working-age Americans get their health insurance through an employer. 

A benefit of employer-sponsored health insurance is that your job helps pay for coverage. Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that employers, on average, pay 83% of health insurance costs in a single plan and the employee picks up 17%. On average, employers pay 73% of health plan costs in a family plan and employees pay 27%. 

The downside of employer-sponsored plans is that you’re limited to what your job offers. An employer may only give you one option. Businesses are increasingly looking for ways to cut health care costs and one way is to limit health insurance to a single high-deductible health plan. 

Even if you have choices, it’s likely only two or three options. Not ideal, but it still gives you alternatives. 

You may find one option has low premiums. That must mean that’s the way to go, right? Not necessarily. Low premiums are usually coupled with high deductibles. 

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) have a deductible of at least $1,400 for individuals and $2,800 for families. 

A deductible is what you have to pay for health care services before the health plan kicks in money. Once you reach your deductible, the health plan begins helping pay for health care services with you picking up your coinsurance amount. 

HDHPs are often the cheapest employer-sponsored health insurance plans in terms of premiums, but you want to consider deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Low premiums can be more than offset by significant deductibles if you need health care services. 

How to find an affordable plan:

  • Check with your employer and spouse’s employer to review the health insurance offerings. You can sign up or make changes to your health insurance during open enrollment. Open enrollment varies by employer. 

  • Choose a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan rather than a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan if you want a more affordable health plan. HMOs have lower premiums than PPOs and similar deductibles. One downside of HMOs is that they have restricted provider networks, so you can only see providers in that network. Plus, you’ll need to get referrals from your primary care provider to see specialists. However, that trade-off means you may pay half the premiums found in PPOs. 

  • An HDHP could be a wise choice if you don’t expect to need much health care over the next year. HDHPs have lower premiums, but higher out-of-pocket costs than HMOs and PPOs. HDHPs also have savings accounts that let you save tax-free money for your health care. Find out more about the differences between health plans.

  • Check each plan’s premiums, copays, deductibles and coinsurance, which is the percentage you’ll pay for health care services once you reach your deductible. Those numbers will give you an idea as to which plan is most affordable for you. 

Individual and Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans

Individual health plans are available in the ACA marketplace and outside of the marketplace. 

The ACA created exchanges for people to compare and buy an individual health plan. The plans on the exchanges must meet certain criteria, such as covering 10 essential health benefits, including prescription drugs, outpatient, hospitalization and mental health. 

The federal government also offers tax credits and subsidies for people who qualify based on their income if you buy an ACA plan. If your household income is 400% of the federal poverty level, you’re eligible for subsidies to reduce an ACA plan’s cost. That's about $52,000 for an individual and $106,000 for a family of four). 

When shopping for an ACA plan, you’ll enter your household income information on the exchanges’ website. The tool gives you options that consider subsidies, so you know what you’ll pay in premiums. 

The most affordable health insurance in the ACA marketplace in terms of premiums is Bronze plans. The ACA marketplace classifies plans by metal tier:

  • Bronze
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum

Bronze has the lowest premiums, but the highest deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. A Bronze plan costs you less at first but more in out-of-pocket expenses than the other plans when you need health care services. 

Platinum has the highest premiums but the lowest out-of-pocket costs and deductibles. 

Silver plans have higher premiums than Bronze. However, if you qualify for subsidies, you may find a Silver plan that’s actually cheaper than a Bronze plan. A Silver plan has lower out-of-pocket costs than Bronze. So, if you qualify for subsidies, a Silver plan might be a better bet than a Bronze plan. 

However, if you don’t qualify for subsidies, ACA plans can be more expensive than an employer-sponsored plan. In that case, you may want to look for an individual plan outside of the marketplace. Plans outside of the exchanges don’t have as many requirements and can be more affordable than ACA plans without subsidies. 

You can look for an individual plan outside of the exchanges by checking with an independent health insurance broker or going directly to area health insurers. 

If you shop for a plan outside of the exchanges, check its coverage, so you know what to expect before signing up. 

How to find an affordable plan: 

  • Go to healthcare.gov, which the ACA exchanges’ website. The site will ask you to enter your information, such as where you live and your family income. With that information, the tool will provide you with health plan options and premium estimates. 
  • Choose an HMO over a PPO. HMOs are cheaper but offer the same coverage. The two differences are that HMOs require referrals to see specialists and you’re only able to see doctors in the HMO’s network. 
  • A Bronze plan can be the right choice if you don’t expect to need to see the doctor often over the next year. 
  • If you qualify for subsidies, a Silver plan can wind up costing as little as a Bronze plan, but you have lower out-of-pocket costs with a Silver plan. 
  • If you can’t find an affordable plan on the exchanges, check with individual health insurers in your area and see your options outside of the exchanges. 


Medicaid is a low-cost health insurance plan with the same benefits found in an employer-sponsored health plan. 

Depending on your income, you pay either little or nothing for Medicaid if you’re eligible. The combination of low costs and comprehensive benefits make Medicaid an excellent affordable health insurance choice. 

Medicaid premiums are based on income, which varies by state. Thirty-eight states have expanded Medicaid eligibility to up to 138% of the federal poverty level. That’s $17,609 for an individual and $36,156 for a family of four. The other 12 states have stricter eligibility guidelines. 

One drawback is that not all providers accept Medicaid, so you may have issues finding a doctor that takes Medicaid. 

How to find an affordable plan: 

  • Check with your state’s Medicaid program. The state program can figure out whether you’re eligible and provide options. 
  • States usually don’t give you a choice for Medicaid. Instead, you’ll get enrolled in the state Medicaid program or a managed Medicaid plan, which is a private insurer that contracts with the state. 

Catastrophic health plans

Catastrophic health insurance offers low-cost premiums with the comprehensive coverage found in standard health insurance. Catastrophic plans will cover you for preventive care, pregnancy, mental health, prescription drug, rehab, labs, outpatient and inpatient care. 

However, these plans are limited to only people under 30 and those who are facing specific hardships, such as homelessness. 

Catastrophic plans are available through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. The plans have low premiums, but high deductibles. The average monthly premium is only $195, which is much cheaper than other plans.

However, the deductible is $8,150. You'll have to pay for health care services until you reach your deductible. At that point, the plan will pay for all of your health care costs. That's another difference with catastrophic health insurance -- it doesn't have a coinsurance portion. 

How to find an affordable plan:

  • Go to your state's ACA marketplace. If you're under 30, catastrophic health insurance should show up as an option.
  • If you're facing a hardship, you'll have to contact your state's marketplace directly and provide information. 

Short-term health plans

Another low-cost option for most Americans is short-term health plans. You can find a short-term health plan for much lower premiums than an employer-sponsored or individual health plan. 

However, these plans aren’t technically considered health insurance. They are only for a short period and they don’t have the same level of coverage you usually find in a health insurance plan. 

For instance, short-term health plans usually don’t cover maternity, prescription drugs and mental health care. They also have coverage caps and you’ll have to pay all of the costs once you reach that annual cap. 

Short-term health plans are available for one year and most states let you renew them twice. California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York don’t allow short-term plans. Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington limit the plan’s length. 

Short-term health plans can help you in between jobs or until a new employer starts covering you. These plans aren’t meant as long-term health coverage. 

How to find an affordable plan: 

  • A Google search will provide you with insurers that offer short-term health plans. 
  • Read the fine print on coverage to understand what the plan covers and what it doesn’t.

How do I get cheap health insurance?

Regardless of how you shop for an affordable health insurance plan, you’ll want to run the numbers and make sure that your doctors accept the plan. Otherwise, you may have to pay more or all of the costs for visits to those doctors. 

Compare the premiums, copays, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Also, figure out what costs are most important -- would you rather lower premiums or lower out-of-pocket costs? 

Michael Daugherty, vice president of sales at GetInsured, said very low-premium plans can actually have higher price tags because of out-of-pocket costs. 

“Purchasing a plan with a low premium can be a pitfall if it ends up having a high deductible. Also, short-term plans may appear to be cheap, but they only cover you in a catastrophic situation and generally exclude expenses that may result from pre-existing conditions. It’s important to buy health insurance from a reputable, qualified broker who can explain your options and tell you what the real cost of a health insurance plan is,” Daughtery said. 

Deborah Gordon, author of “The Health Care Consumer’s Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money,” said the best plan depends on your specific circumstances. 

“If you don’t expect to need a lot of health care services, that trade-off may work out well for you. But if you’re worried about unanticipated expenses or wouldn’t be able to handle medical bills, consider a plan that protects you a little better,” Gordon said. 

Andrew Roderick, CEO at Credit Repair Companies, said a key is researching your options and figuring out what you want from a health plan. 

“Make sure to check reviews and speak to people you know who've had experiences, after all, you're buying in to a contract, and your health is literally at stake,” Roderick said.